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Kansas - Masque CD (album) cover

MASQUE

Kansas

 

Symphonic Prog

3.66 | 544 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

leathermusic
5 stars For my money, this is the best Kansas record ever made, and thus by default, it is the best American prog record ever. Being a pretty major Kansas for half of my life, that isn't an easy call to make. But look at the tracklist on this thing, it is truly mindblowing. I like how it is kind of a concept record, yet not really. I can't quite wrap my head around what the concept is. It seems to be kind of an old man telling stories of a forgotten mythical time, a la Selling England by the Pound maybe? There is a definite theme of loneliness and the passing of time to almost everything on the album, not to mention death. Anyways, it all works its way to a satisfying conclusion with the great epic The Pinnacle, maybe the best track this band ever put together!

Things do get off to a shaky start though, It takes a woman's love to make a man is so unrepresentative of the rest of the album that they had to put it on first. This is obviously a misfire of an attempt to get airplay on rock radio. The band would soon learn how to do this more effectively by crafting the classic songs of the next two LPs which every non Kansas fan knows to this day. It is good that it is up first, because you can just lay down the needle on track 2 and close the lid. Two Cents Worth is a cool little funky track, not overtly commercial, but more radio friendly than the rest of the record, and some great lyrics to boot. Track 3 is where we seriously get down to business, Icarus-Borne on Wings of Steel rivals The Pinnacle for the greatest Kansas song ever. This song remains a concert staple today, and a seriously good reason to go see the band wherever they may play. Need I say more? Side 1 ends with a more forgotten masterpiece, All the World. What a great song, the first time I heard it I remember being so shocked by the contrast of the opening to the body of the song. But today it sounds like the most logical of songs, with great recapitulation at the end. Lyrically, this is very heavy stuff, very mature. This may be the greatest Kansas song that I know of that does not seem to be heralded by fellow wheatheads as a true classic. Had this track been on any other Kansas record, it would be the best track. Here, surrounded by so many other great songs, it doesn't even make the top 3!

Side 2 does not let up. In fact, things really start off with a bang. Child of Innocence is yet another classic Kansas rocker. This might be the ultimate marriage of the British prog style with the quasi Southern boogie that was popular in the states at the time. For a long time this was my favorite song on the album, but I simply wore it out with numerous playings. Again, the lyrics and the precise musical arrangements are just jawdropping, and what a great guitar riff. I especially love the rideout at the end of the track. This one clocks in at only 4:23, but it still feels like a mini epic. IMHO Kansas should have extended this trakc by a few minutes and left out It takes a Woman's... It's You is another shorter poppier song, but nonetheless it lives up to the intensity of Child of Innocence. The lyrics fit in with the rest of the album, and it is really catchy. Miracles and Mayhem is great because it sets up the final track so well. This is really your typical franticly rocking Kansas song complete with a lot of meter shifts. Some great vocal interplay between Walsh and Steinhardt keeps the momentum rolling. The record closes with The Pinnacle, a true masterpiece of prog rock. To my ears, this stands up to the great epics of Yes Genesis King Crimson Floyd Camel etc. The structure of the track with its many interludes and variations is very Sonata like.

In summary, Masque is an amazing, spellbinding piece of music. No other American rock group has done something this ambitious since. Although Kansas went on to make several more absolute masterpieces, they never put so much great music in one place. 5 out of 5 stars.

leathermusic | 5/5 |

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